Having a vacation by taking a long cruise is supposed to be a relaxing experience, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes people become the victims of a crime while they are on a cruise ship. Because there are so many people who are packed into the large boats, it’s pretty easy to get away with a crime as well because there are few investigative resources and plenty of places to hide.
What makes cruise ship crime so disturbing is that anything which isn’t considered to be a serious crime does not need to be reported to authorities.
Cruise Ship Crime
Cruise ships are required to report serious crimes. This includes a homicide, any suspicious death, an assault that results with a bodily injury, or a sexual assault. Any money theft above $10k is also supposed to be reported. Outside of these crimes, however, the cruise ship company can resolve the case internally without saying another word. Needless to say, there are thousands of victims of cruise ship crime that will never see justice served.
- Since 2011, more than 950 crimes have been reported to the FBI by cruise ship lines, but only 31 of those crimes were reported publicly.
- According to Holland America, a serious crime that would require reported as never occurred on one of their ships according to their knowledge.
- In 2013, there were no allegations of homicide, kidnapping, or suspicious deaths against crew members for Carnival or Royal Caribbean that were closed by the FBI.
- The rate of alleged rapes while on a cruise ship is 9 per every 100,000 people, while the FBI reports 27.1 alleged incidents per 100,000 people in the general population.
- 14% of cruise ship companies don’t conduct any criminal background checks on their employees before hiring them.
- In 2013, the four primary North American cruise companies reported a total of 78 crimes nationwide. It includes 19 alleged sexual assaults and 29 alleged rapes.
- During that same time period, police in Florida responded to 75 cases of thefts at the five largest ports in the state.
- Six cruise lines in 2011 reported on their websites 102 crimes, including: five deaths, 34 rapes, 29 sexual assaults, 17 assaults, 13 thefts of more than $10,000 and four people overboard.
There are some horror stories about crimes that have happened on cruise ships and at first the data seems to say that these are rare. The only problem is that many of the crimes that can happen on a cruise ship aren’t required to be reported. If someone steals $1,000 from your room, then the cruise ship doesn’t have to report this to police. Since there is a 30x greater chance that the cruise ship company will report a crime before a private citizen will, there’s a good chance that there are many crimes that simply go unreported because people feel like nothing will get done. Add to that the fact that there are likely several crew members with a questionable background and it is easy to understand why people may not feel safe when they’re on a cruise ship these days.
What Do The Voluntary Disclosures Have To Say?
- In the last Q2 2014, Norwegian Cruises reported just 1 alleged rape by a passenger to another passenger.
- The number of passengers carried by Norwegian during this time: 486,000.
- There are over 15,000 people working for Norwegian at any given time.
- In total, there were 11 total reports made in Q2 2014. Two were of a suspicious death and one was a report of a possible kidnapping.
- Sexual assaults are the most reported crime that occurs on cruise ships today.
- There have been 18 total reports of serious crime on cruise ships through 2014 at the time of this writing.
- Despite this, law enforcement had been called to investigate more than 300 crimes since January 2013.
It seems like serious crime is a pretty rare thing on a cruise ship and in most cases it seems to be. The one piece of data that is missing, however, is how much crime goes unreported. How does one cruise ship line constitute a serious assault that has bodily harm? Even when not on a ship, someone can be assaulted multiple times, be hospitalized, and the perpetrator may only be charged with a third degree misdemeanor if there aren’t any broken bones. If that’s the classification of assault that needs to be reported to authorities by a cruise ship, then there’s a good chance that the crime rate while at sea may be grossly under-reported.
How Safe Are You?
- In 2013, there were 25 total incidents reported to authorities in the United States.
- The information that is disclosed on databases involve cases that are both reported and then closed by American authorities.
- From January 2012 to the end of June 2013 Royal Caribbean reported 16 thefts of over $10,000, five assaults with serious injury, 10 rapes and 11 sexual assaults.
- For Carnival, there is an average of 41 alleged crimes per year, or 10 per North American boat, while 10 million passengers are ferried during the same period.
- On Disney cruises, there were two allegations of sexual assault, both involving crew members and one of them was a crew on crew assault.
- Cruise ships have no jail or authority to imprison an offender, so people are allowed to roam freely around a ship until they are arrested at a port.
- In 2012, the Coast Guard reported 15 investigations on vessels nationwide. Of those, 11 were sexual assaults; crew members were suspected in six of those assaults.
- A 2008 analysis says there were 151 reports of unwanted sexual touching or sexual contact in that time period; and 56 of those involved a crew member in some way.
With the amount of people who are being carried and a large amount of daily crew, the overall crime rates when compared to the general population are definitely low. This is something that every cruise ship company wants to emphasize when they voluntarily report data. It is interesting that every company leads their stats with how many passengers and crew that are carried during the the quarter where crime data is been logged. Another little known fact is that allegations have only been required to be reported since 2010, so any previous data is pretty much lost to the winds of time. Is there a good chance that someone will commit a crime against you when you’re on a cruise. Probably not – assuming that this data is close to accurate, of course.
Is There Enough Being Done To Keep People Safe?
- A 2014 report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted “concerns” about cruise ship crime reporting.
- According to the former head of the FBI’s New York City Criminal Division, almost every cruise ship that came into port in NYC requested agents to come on board because of something that had happened.
- The range of reports that were fielded by the NY FBI office ranged from people going overboard to sexual assaults and thefts.
- Although cruise lines are required to keep a detailed log of crimes that occur on board, they are not required to release this data to the public.
- From the 2010 law that required serious crime reporting, 4 out of the 15 provisions that the law required have yet to be developed, so they are not yet implemented.
- 90% of the cruise lines voluntarily report their crime data to the public, but it often only includes the serious crimes and doesn’t include any other data.
- Many of the statistics that are quoted come from the US Coast Guard, who may be closing a case that is several years old and only then reporting it.
It’s true that most people are going to be safe and have fun while they are on a cruise ship. What if it was your mother who was at risk? Or your daughter? Or your spouse? The issue is that there is a problem, people know there is a problem, and no one is committing to a solution. What good is voluntarily reported data if it isn’t an accurate reflection of what is going on? Because crime is required to be put into the ship’s log, requiring that this specific data be released to the public would shine a very bright light into the darkness of this issue. It would also help to have a 4 year old law be completely implemented.
Why Are There So Many Issues With Reporting?
- Because many incidents that occur on board a ship happen while the ship is traveling through international waters, many local police do not have any jurisdiction.
- There are numerous instances of having a cruise ship leaving a port’s jurisdiction before reporting a serious crime so an investigation cannot take place.
- With crew members involved so often, it is possible for a crew member to disembark at a new location and be sent home rather than face an investigation.
- There is no published standard as to what constitutes a crime and what does not.
- If someone decides not to press charges, then a crime is not considered to have been committed, and so nothing is registered in official statistics.
- There is only a very small security presence on board most ships and the people charged with security are typically the perpetrators.
What seems like the best option to keep people safer would be to establish an international treaty the pertained to the security of a boat. In the US, the FBI is charged with international investigations. This means response times can be extremely slow. In one case, a disappearance on a cruise ship was not even reported for 5 weeks. These delays make it nearly impossible to find justice for a vast majority of the victims of crime on a cruise. If a treaty were in place that would give on-board jurisdiction to a certain law enforcement group and if ships would start to be equipped with brigs, then it would become possible to process crimes more efficiently and keep passengers safer. With that being said, more than 10 million people take a cruise every year, undeterred with the crime data and inconsistencies.
Is It Time For A New Law?
- The closure reports that show reports of only closed cases was specifically inserted into the reporting laws in 2010 when the bill was still in committee.
- Between December 2007 and October 2008, cruise lines voluntarily reported 363 crimes to the FBI.
- The number of crimes reported between 2010 and Q1 2012 under the new mandatory reporting system: 54.
- In the US, if the FBI declines to accept a case for investigation, then it won’t be registered in public information that is released.
- The FBI only opens cases of reported crime on-board cruise ships 10-20% of the time.
- With gross under-reporting likely, people are led into a false sense of security because they believe that crime rates are lower than they actually are.
Something needs to be changed, that much is for certain. Although cruise ships are voluntarily reporting crime, they are reporting it based on what the 2010 legislation requires and nothing more. That’s why there is a dramatic drop in the reported crime that occurs on a cruise ship. The reality is that the crime rates are more likely to be closer to the 2007 or 2008 numbers than they are to the current reports. Then you’d need to take the higher numbers of cruise passengers and extrapolate a new ratio. In reality, there’s probably closer to 650 crimes occurring every year on cruise ships. That’s still an awfully low number, of course, but a more realistic picture than “nothing like that has ever happened on one of our cruise lines.”
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